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Los Angeles City Council Cuts Budget Without Layoffs

The council passed a $12.8 billion budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, which is approximately 2 percent less than the current fiscal year’s budget. The city will eliminate 1,700 vacant jobs next fiscal year.

The Los Angeles City Council on Thursday, May 23, passed a $12.8 billion budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year — roughly 2 percent less than the current fiscal year's budget — as officials reined in spending to deal with what they foresee to be a multi-year budget deficit.

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, the budget chair, said there was no sugar-coating the fact that the new spending plan is a "bare bones budget" but noted that the city managed to avoid layoffs and that the situation gives the city an opportunity to rethink how it operates moving forward.

"At the end of the day, we have a document. It's not ... a budget I want to go running down the street (shouting out) how excited I am. ... But I think we can be proud of what we've done with what we had," he said.

Last month, Mayor Karen Bass had proposed a spending plan calling for the elimination of more than 2,100 vacant city positions to help balance the budget. But the council restored some positions — including 100 jobs in the Bureau of Street Services, which handles projects like street paving and sidewalk repairs, as well as restoring 85 Recreation and Parks positions. Under the revised budget, the city will eliminate about 1,700 vacant jobs next fiscal year.

Bass still needs to sign off on the budget that the council adopted.

Thursday's budget discussion before the council vote was not without controversy.

The budget was approved by a vote of 12-3, with Councilmembers Eunisses Hernandez, Nithya Raman and Hugo Soto-Martínez voting against it. The three councilmembers last year also voted against a contract with police officers that will cost the city nearly an additional $1 billion over four years — in salaries and bonuses.

Hernandez also voted last May against this fiscal year's budget, because she thought too much money had been allocated to the Los Angeles Police Department. She said Thursday that the need to make cuts for the coming fiscal year to balance the budget was a problem city officials brought upon themselves by agreeing to hefty raises for police officers, among other actions.

"This (budget) crisis is one of our own making. We did this to the city," Hernandez said.

She lamented that the budget for the new fiscal year sets aside $23 million for city liability payouts — for settlements such as when someone trips and falls in a public space. But meanwhile, she said, the city is cutting several million dollars from the public works department whose employees repair streets and sidewalks.

And she said she couldn't vote for a budget that increases funding to the LAPD while cutting $2.5 million from LA's BEST, an after-school enrichment program. The budget for LAPD will be about $2 billion next fiscal year.

"I do not believe that we have arrived at a budget for next year that will appropriately meet the needs of our constituents," she said.

Blumenfield later noted that the City Council also approved raises for the majority of the city's civilian workers. These raises, he said, were necessary to address inflation and the need to retain a qualified workforce.

As for the raises for police officers, Blumenfield said bumping up the starting salaries puts the city in the middle of the pack compared to nine neighboring municipalities to address the recruitment and retention issues that LAPD has experienced the past few years.

Another controversy that surfaced during Thursday's discussion was over how money is spent under Bass' Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD).

Councilmembers voted 12-3 in favor of an amendment to move $12.9 million from an "unappropriated balance" fund into the general fund to support the office. The original thinking behind placing it in the unappropriated balance fund was to park the money until the mayor's office provided a report to councilmembers about the work done by GRYD, as councilmembers had previously asked for.

Rodriguez urged her colleagues to vote against the amendment — with councilmembers Imelda Padilla and Kevin de León doing so — because of concerns regarding accountability.

Rodriguez claimed that Bass' office has not been forthcoming about GRYD funding and the work it is doing.

"What troubles me is that every time we were promised a report, they (Bass' office) blew us off," Rodriguez said.

The councilmember said keeping the $12.9 million in the unappropriated balance fund would not impact any contracts with GRYD nor disrupt the work of the service providers.

Rodriguez also criticized an email she said was sent by the mayor's office to GRYD contractors, in which Rodriguez claimed that the mayor's office explicitly called Rodriguez out for not wanting to release the $12.9 million to the GRYD office right away.

"It was a really poorly miscalculated attempt to try and smear this council and me, specifically naming me in the email, as an individual that was obstructing their funding, which could not be further from the truth," Rodriguez said.

Matt Hale, deputy mayor of finance and innovation, told the council Thursday that the mayor's office would report to the council's Public Safety Committee in June and provide details regarding the GRYD funding.

The mayor's office did not respond to a request seeking comment about the email or Rodriguez's comments.

As for the mayor's signature homeless program, Inside Safe, the council agreed to allocate $185 million as Bass had proposed. That's $65 million less than this year while overall funding for homeless programs is set at $950 million, a decrease of about $350 million.

Members of the Bass administration previously said that a major reason for the decrease is that projects funded by Proposition HHH, a 10-year bond measure that voters approved in 2016 to build affordable housing, is winding down.

One change the council made in terms of funding for Inside Safe is that moving forward, they will require the mayor's administration to provide regular updates before approving monthly allocations of funds.

City News Service contributed reporting.

(c)2024 Daily Breeze, Torrance, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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